Cover Stories

Hope, Love & Art: West County Center

During challenging times, some of the most powerful forces are hope and love. It’s truly inspirational when people and communities can come together. In that spirit, West County Center is hoping to share some peace and optimism with St. Louis during the current pandemic. The shopping center is hosting an art exhibit and contest to benefit and support local creators.

The exhibit features 11 works from area artists, which are all inspired by West County Center’s icon, the dove. The joyful symbol’s importance goes back to the center’s grand opening in 1969, when Famous-Barr released the birds in celebration. “The dove was incorporated as a kind of landmark for West County Center,” marketing director Sean Phillips explains. “It’s pointed toward the west because in the late 1960s the metropolitan area was expanding in that direction. It represents peaceful growth for St. Louis.” 

The artwork will be on display throughout September on Level 1 in the area between Nordstrom and JCPenney. Visitors to the center will get to vote on which piece they like the most via text message, and the winners will be announced on Oct. 2. First prize is a $250 gift card, and second and third place will receive $150 and $100 gift cards respectively. “The 18th anniversary of the center reopening after being rebuilt from the ground up is Sept. 20,” Phillips says. “It’s like it’s our 18th birthday. Since we’ll be able to legally vote, we hope St. Louisans will celebrate with us by choosing their favorites.”

After the pieces are exhibited at the shopping center, they will be auctioned off online by the St. Louis Artists’ Guild, which will keep part of the proceeds. “The artists are generously sharing half of their profits,” executive director Kathryn Nahorski says. “We are grateful to have been chosen for this partnership and that West County Center is working to support regional art and culture.” The funds will go toward the guild’s programming such as its exhibitions and community education initiatives like classes, workshops and lectures.

Narhorski says it’s always been the mission of the guild to provide a place for the arts to be shared with the public, but COVID-19 has limited its options. The organization started offering more content online and hosted summer camps for middle and high school students in groups of 10 or less. “We were closed for three months, and it’s been slow to regain traction with returning audiences,” she notes, adding that it’s exciting that local artists will get to share their work at West County Center. “We advocate for art to be just about everywhere. It’s fun that people who may not visit a museum or gallery will get the chance to experience and interact with these art projects.”

Phillips notes that West County Center also is glad that the art contest resulted in the partnership. It allows the center to continue to engage creatively with shoppers while also supporting the city’s vibrant cultural scene. “The arts have been one of the industries most impacted by the pandemic,” he says. “We’re excited to be able to direct our efforts to support this community and promote a message of peace, hope and love.”

Through the month of September, West County Center is displaying artworks from local artists inspired by the dove icon. Visitors can vote on their favorites, and later, the pieces will be auctioned to benefit the St. Louis Artists’ Guild. Pictured on the cover: RiteHand Robot!, guild executive director Kathryn Nahorski, president Jerry Cox and artists Steve Hartman and Tia (Bia Vision) Bible. For more information, visit shopwestcountycenter.com.

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography

Pictured at top: St. Louis Artists’ Guild president Jerry Cox and executive director Kathryn Nahorski
Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography 

Recommended